Saturday, 24 October 2015

Clive James...

There’s a wintry feel to Penrith on a Saturday morning in the rain. With breakfast (and free wifi) provided by Oliver’s Tasty Bites, I read a short article, by Clive James, on the Guardian website. He has leukemia, so his writings these days have an elegaic air. When the future is curtailed, memories come to the fore; he looks out of the window, into the garden, where his Japanese maple tree is “in flame”. The bright red leaves conjure up a pleasant memory from fifty years ago. They also give him hope. “Last year”, he writes. “I saw the transformation as a sign of the end. Now I prefer to see it as a portent of spring”.

In the meantime he sees more acutely, and listens more intently; he sees things he probably wouldn’t have noticed in years gone by, when he was busy trying to make a name for himself.

This abilty to enjoy the ‘here and now’ is something we’re accustomed to hearing from people diagnosed with a terminal illness or who expected to die but were reprieved. The proximity to death makes them appreciate what they are about to lose (or what they nearly lost). We seem to accept that these feelings are conjured up only in exceptional circumstance, towards the end of life, when, in fact, they are available to anyone, anytime.

We have to want to see (that’s the easiest bit… and the hardest), and we have to be aware of what stops us seeing: hopes, dreams, memories, opinions, beliefs, convictions, certainties, the yearning for social status, to ‘be somebody’, to make our mark, etc. That’s the hardest bit… and also the easiest, since we keep these impediments in front of our eyes by an act of will. The moment we see them for what they are, gravity takes over… and they fall away, out of our line of sight. Are we willing to do without the beliefs and ideas that seem to make us what we are, even for just a short period of time? What will happen if we let go of them? Are we willing to find out?…

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